Missouri to face a South Carolina team in transition

·3 min read

South Carolina will play under interim head coach Mike Bobo after this week's firing of Will Muschamp when the Gamecocks host Missouri on Saturday in a game pitting two struggling SEC teams.

Bobo -- hired this season by Muschamp as the offensive coordinator after serving as head coach at Colorado State for five seasons -- met with Gamecocks players and staff on Sunday shortly after Muschamp's firing. The embattled Muschamp was 28-30 overall and 17-22 in SEC games since his hiring in 2016.

"We lost our coach, we lost our leader, and a lot of us coaches lost a friend and a father figure to a lot of those players," Bobo said. "So, it was a tough day. It'll be a tough time going forward.

"My biggest job is morale. Getting these guys ready to play, play for each other and play for South Carolina. We've got an unbelievable staff on both sides of the ball that are good football coaches."

The dismissal of Muschamp comes after South Carolina's third straight loss, a 59-42 setback to Ole Miss last Saturday. The Gamecocks (2-5) have allowed a total of 159 points during their three-game losing streak. The defense gave up 708 yards to Ole Miss.

Missouri (2-3) hits the road again after decisive defeats in both of its away games this season, against Tennessee 35-12 and Florida 41-17.

The Tigers had to postpone last week's home game against Georgia because the roster was short of defensive linemen due to positive COVID-19 tests. The Tigers have not played since their loss to Florida on Oct. 31.

First-year Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz coached Appalachian State to a 20-15 win last season at South Carolina.

Missouri will try to attack South Carolina's beleaguered defense behind developing redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak.

After settling on Shawn Robinson, a TCU transfer, to start the opener against Alabama, Drinkwitz scrapped that plan the following week at Tennessee and went with Bazelak.

Bazelak is seventh in the league in quarterback rating (143.7) and fifth in completion percentage (69.1), but he has not thrown a touchdown pass since he had four with 406 yards in the Tigers' 45-41 victory against LSU on Oct. 10.

Drinkwitz said Bazelak is gaining more confidence each game.

"Once you get shaky, it's tough to recover, you can't doubt yourself as a player," Drinkwitz said. "If you ever doubt yourself, that's when things are not good. So we try to identify what his strengths are."

South Carolina's offense has been productive behind a strong running game that includes sophomore Kevin Harris, who ran for 243 yards on 25 carries with a school-record five touchdowns in the Ole Miss game. It was the fifth highest rushing performance in school history and the most in a game since 2011.

He leads the SEC with 817 yards on 131 carries, while scoring 13 touchdowns.

Missouri's rushing defense has been stout, ranking 33rd nationally allowing 131.2 yards a game.

--Field Level Media